ACL Recovery: Injury Recovery with Confidence

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Guest Author: Amanda Ferranti

Blog Image - ACL - Amanda BioAmanda Ferranti is the director and founder of Ferranti Empowerment where she provides mental skills consulting for youth athletes, teams, and coaches. Amanda has an M.A. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, a B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University. Amanda skillfully develops mental toughness in youth athletes with her innovation and unique knowledge-base. She is a Certified Consultant by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology and contributes to the growing literature on mental skills training and performance enhancement.

She has achieved a great deal of athletic success herself, having played soccer for HBC Fury (7 x State Champions, 3x Regional Champions, 3x National Finalists), Princeton University (Ivy League Champions, NCAA Final Four semi-finalist), and the Long Island Rough Riders (Northeast Division Champions). Amanda also has a diverse background competing in multiple sports, including swim, basketball, lacrosse, and dance.

Mental Skills: The Missing Piece of ACL Recovery

Love of the Game

For some people sports are a hobby.  For me, soccer is more. I began playing at 3 years old and immediately fell in love.  At the start of my journey I was unclear of what connected me to the game. As I look back, the game brought me pure joy that I never experienced elsewhere.  The game grew to be my life, my love, and my passion – captivating my desires for physical challenge, competition, and most importantly creativity, which I consider to be the soul of the game.

My love for soccer propelled me in my journey to play for teams at the Premier Youth, ODP, Region I, NCAA Division I, and Semi-Professional levels.  Within these environments I competed in 5 National Championships, received several individual honors, and made lifelong friends.  Yet, in all of my experiences of success, the most memorable and impactful moment was when I was diagnosed with a torn ACL and sentenced to a minimum of 6 months separated from the thing I loved most in life.

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My Torn ACL, Reconstruction & Doubts

As you can imagine, a serious injury like a torn ACL devastated me in ways that I did not know possible.  I was just 15 years old at the time of my first ACL reconstruction – a critical age for physical and social development, and more importantly (at the time), college recruiting.  I questioned whether the new me – Amanda with a torn ACL – was the same player with the same skills and the same spirit as I had before the injury.

I had so many fears and doubts and wondered, Am I fast anymore?  Who have I become? Will I achieve my goals? The doubts swirled in my mind as I questioned my previously strong identity, self-worth, and confidence on and off the field.

The Missing Piece of ACL Recovery

However, I was resilient. Thanks to the support of my family, friends and teammates, I attacked the physical challenge of recovery as I would a soccer practice. That made the physical part of recovery easy. It was the type of work I was most familiar with, it required hustle and love of the game. I had that. Over the course of a year, I made it back to the field and successfully got recruited to play soccer at Princeton University.

However, as high school ended and even through college, I struggled to fully regain my confidence & self-esteem I had prior to my injury. Looking back, I can see that where I lacked was the mental component of recovery. In fact, at Princeton, my battle to reclaim my self-esteem and confidence kept me from fulfilling my potential on the field.  The challenges I faced with the mental side of college soccer is a large part of what inspired me to pursue my education & career in mental skills. Specifically, I was drawn to the intricacies of how social and emotional affect influence physical performance.

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Mental Skills for ACL Recovery

My desire to become a Certified Mental Skills Consultant was born out of my desire to help young players implement the mental skills that I wish I had access to during my ACL recovery.  There is research that supports my experience that emotional recovery is one of the best ways to regain confidence after an injury.

As I studied mental consulting I was compelled to prove that I could master the skills that I teach, which is why 3 years after college I decided to play semi-professional soccer with the Long Island (NY) Rough Riders.  Performing at the very top of my game I never imagined that it would happen again – in the second game of my 2014 season, at 28 years old, I tore my other ACL. In the days and weeks that followed, I faced a very humbling reality that my career in competitive soccer had come to an end.

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The Key to Mental Recovery from a Torn ACL

I was absolutely devastated after my second ACL tear. This time there was no team to work back to and no goal of being recruited – it was the end and it wasn’t by choice. The physical, social, and emotional pain was just the same, if not worse.  New doubts and fears emerged this time. Do I walk away entirely? Who would I be then?

My attachment to the game won out. I enthusiastically approached my recovery as an opportunity to my strategies for emotional rehab in conjunction with my physical recovery.  Specifically, I worked really hard to apply multiple mental skills including:

  • Emotional Awareness & Management: Keeping tabs on the daily ups and downs.
  • Process Orientation: Taking a growth mindset to the process of recovery. Specifically organizing thoughts and all aspects of recovery.
  • Ownership & Responsibility: Allowed me to create and focus on my new goals and how I could contribute to my recovery.

Easy enough to list, but the critical component to executing these skills was my commitment to the process of journaling – which I did throughout an entire year of my recovery.

ACL Recovery Journal

My year long experience of journaling had a tremendous impact on my emotional rehab. I credit the process of organizing my thoughts through writing and implementing the strategies listed above with my ability to regain confidence and return to play as if nothing happened.

In fact, I feel more discomfort in my first ACL reconstruction, which convinces me even more of the profound impact that emotional rehab can have on a quick, confident, and strong return to play (Crossman, 1997).

I’m so passionate about journaling as the key to recovery from my ACL injuries that I’m committed to creating a journaling resource for today’s girls that are struggling to recover from their first, second or third ACL injury.

To receive updates and learn more about accessing my ACL Recovery Journal created specifically for soccer girls, click the email button below.

Forever, the Love of the Game

Today I play nearly every day of the week with a group of adult competitive men and I never worry about my knee, nor do I feel pain or weakness.

Why all this work and interest in staying in the game? I no longer have a college to get recruited to, I don’t have a pro team to play for, I don’t have a championship to win or a team to support – it’s just me and the game that I love.

I consider myself lucky to have this relationship with the game, but it’s something I’ve worked at too. The relationship to the sport and all that it brings is what makes me so passionate about sharing my story and creating an ACL Recovery Journal. It’s a tragedy when girls leave soccer because of an injury like an ACL tear. That’s why I’m committed to helping girls maintain and enhance their love of the game, even in the face of adversity as they recover from an ACL tear.

Citations

1. Powell JW, Barber-Foss KD. Injury patterns in Selected High School Sports: A Review of the 1995-1997 Seasons. Journal of Athletic Training. 1999;34(3):277-284.

2. Majewski M, Habelt S, Steinbrück K. Epidemiology of Athletic Knee Injuries: A 10-year Study. Knee. 2006(13):184-188.

3. Crossman, J. (1997). Psychological Rehabilitation from Sports Injuries. Sports Medicine, 23(5), 333-39.

3 thoughts on “ACL Recovery: Injury Recovery with Confidence

  1. C-DAWG Conn says:

    Having had four (4) knee surgeries and rehab periods, the mental challenge (over each 6 month period was the toughest. I always looked ahead down the road to getting back on the field which was the most help and not looking at what I was enduring each rehab session. Good article and very good to pass on to any person going through ACL rehab

  2. TONY PIZZARO says:

    Miz
    I think you hit thinks right on the head. My daughter also had an acl tear before going into her Sophmore year at her High School, where she was the leading scorer as a Freshman on the Varsity Team. She tore it with her club team PDA. I remember saying to her right after it happened, You’ll be ok, just ice it up, you have to get ready for your game next week for regionals. After icing it for a day and looking at it, I could be no further from the truth. I remember looking at it the next day and tears coming to my eyes. It was the first time my daughter had ever seen me cry. I was right after leaving Chop that following Mon in PA. Full ACL tear and partial MCL. Understand, I have a family of highly competitive player, 3 daughter and 1 son, who are all top players on the respected team. But, Ava was my oldest who I worked the most with. She thought I was crying, then at the hospital because she itwas tore acl, but I was crying that day because I remember what I said when it first happened. We as parents make mistakes all to often in this wonderful world of youth sports that impact our children in a way the changes the course of there lives. See, I played highly competitive as well, Semi-Pro for Danubia at a time where they did not have a professional outdoor team in Phila, I tell you this because at that time our parents had very little influence on our sports decisions, We played for the love of the sport. Today everything organized and highly competitive. I say that greatness starts at a very young age because the big things are so easy because you don’t think about them when you turn 9-10-11. My daughter Ava was just the opposite . She started at a very late age, to the standard today, 10. By age 13 she was one of the top players in our area and the leading scorer and captain of her club team. But, things have know changed. We were faced with a challenge of a life time. I felt and I was going to go through it with her every step of the way. Her younger siblings look up to her, so this was going to be a must win situation for her and she knew it deep down inside. What Miz said is so true, the mental aspect and the love of the game is the number one thing. To recover from an injury and return back to the field of play at a high level, you have to love the sport and if you truly don’t inside your heart, you won’t get back. For some kids it’s probably a relief because of the pressure put on them by there on parents. Kids thrive for our attention everyday and they want nothing more than to please us. See I coached some successful teams as well. I can tell you, we were never the most talented team on the field or the most skilled and I certainly wasn’t the best or most qualified coach. But, I always remember what my favorite coach always said. Believe in yourself and you can do gr8 things. I instill that in every kid that enters my life that I get an opportunity to help. Try to make them believe that they can jump over mountains and do thinks they can’t and they will give you there heart and sole on the field. I mean make them believe!!! I think that is truly the art of coaching and parenting. TT them before a game about the gr8 game they had last month and put no undue pressure on them before or After a game. I tell you these things because I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made at 51. Ava took the blunt of most of my mistakes, being the oldest and I was toughest on her, so the challenge she faced in front of her would be a true determination of if she really loved the sport or did for dear old dad all this time.Well, she back and did most of it on her own. Now, we let her recover for a year and 1 month before she stepped back on the field. I see some kids returning after a 4 month, crazy, because there worried about losing there scholarship or getting one. Listen, if you step back on that field before 9 month your asking for trouble. Dr Wells at Chop operated on my daughter and I can tell you he was unbelievable. Not because he got her back up and running, but because of how his personalty made you feel like it was his own daughter. I can say this so helpful. Her therapist, Becky was tremendous, but unfortunately we did not take her complete recommendations 100 percent and not because of me. It’s a process when returning to the field. One of them being small sided games. I didn’t think it was a big issue at the time, but looking back it’s critical. See this makes it easier to get more acclimated with more touches and getting comfortable handling the ball because you can’t avoid engagement and before you know it, your not thinking about playing or getting hurt, it comes more natural . Jumping into 11v11 your seeing the ball a lot less, hence fewer touch and longer comfortably engaging and attacking. The good news is she got approved to play in Sept of last year and I would say she’s at about 85% of where she was before the injury. Miz has it O so right, your family friends and the glass half full will have a lot to do with the process. We havn’t been to Berkshire yet, but we plan to and the number one reason is the pros like Mia Hamm and Company, They are the ones that put womens soccer on the map. Ill say it again, like I always do the game in 1991 women Olympics was terrific, but what they did in 1999 might be the best soccer game I ever witnessed, (women or Men) with Mia and company. Still get goose bumps thinking back. But, there struggles is what made soccer for women gr8. We as a country, community or player of today, should never forget that.

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